Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Nibbling the White Line

Thanks to CM & the Clan-facebook
I wasn't sure if I should run at Monkton in the vets mile track race. I had a number for the Bridges of Tyne 5m tonight which I had transferred from Miss L. who had entered previously but couldn't make it. However, an email from the organiser yesterday sealed the deal when he said I hadn't got in to the road race. I was 4 days late with the transfer, so it was a no-go.  Total bo%£cks.
Anyway, that left me free to bury myself in a 100% effort in order to secure a sub 5:30 on the track. Easy target? I had a big extended family day out on Saturday and my previous weeks mileage was just steady miles. No speedwork whatsoever.   Why should beating a PB by easy? I think not.
In the process of getting to the track, I misplaced my phone. I hunted around the car when I arrived at the track. Time was getting on, however, so I locked up and trooped along to the little clubhouse of Jarrow & Hebburn, Steve Crams old club.
I joined the queue and signed up for the event.
There was quite a good turnout and I found out I was in the 5th heat of 6 races. I thought there was a good chance of running in a group, which might help with pacing. I donned my Nikes and did some  stretching. Although it was dry and warm, there was a decent breeze on the back straight and I wasn't at all sure it was a fast night. No matter how many times I rooted through my bag, though, there was still no sign of the phone. A wee jog back to the car. Nope.
It was soon time to line up and I was 3rd from the inside. There were around 10 in the race and we were under starters and ...bang...we were off.  I tucked in behind Mr G with 3 others ahead. We were round lap 1 in 73 seconds (or so the bloke at the line shouted). On the back straight the 3 in front were moving away and Carla M. from N Shields moved up just as I was thinking about going across the gap, so I moved onto her shoulder. She was moving well but I wasn't sure about the pace. It was fast, but I was reluctant to move to the front of the group and sat there for 2 more laps. With 200 to go, I moved out and went. I could feel someone behind me and knew I wasn't alone, but ploughed on to the line. The fact that I could attempt a sprint meant I hadn't run this as well as I might.
The result was 5:44. How could I have lost 14 seconds from my run a fortnight ago?
But we weren't quite finished...as I began to jog on, I was called back by an official and politely read the riot act about 'nibbling' the inner edge of the white line of the track. Next time a DQ was on the cards. I nodded. Disappointed with the time, I was probably more disappointed with my lack of drive in letting someone else do all the work. Resolving to put in the graft next time, I said my goodbyes to Mr G and took off home.
I caught sight of the lads road training group coming back from the Steads as I got back into 'Peth. Maybe I would have been better doing a long training session?!
The phone was in the toilet. Plonker.
Giving myself a hard time for my poor track run, I put my trainers back on and promptly knocked out a 10 miler round the lanes. Must try harder, Mr Mac. Slacker.


Sunday, 24 June 2018

Got My New Shoes On

I’m going through a bit of a salad phase at the mo. This means a salad of some type most lunchtimes. If I can apply this to the evenings as well and ditch the snacks and beer, the flab may begin to drop off again. Having been down to 62kg a couple of years ago, I might have looked like Skeletors hungry brother, but the running didn’t half improve. I positively flew up them there hills.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit thin on the training front. However, it didn’t stop me eyeing up an open one mile event at Jarrow in South Tyneside. There was fixture congestion on Saturday with both Windy Gyle and Earsdon Hill races on, but a flat 4 laps round the running track sounded much more attractive.

I was in Newcastle on Wednesday evening on taxi duty so engineered a short run around the quayside. The Sunshine 5K Run was on. All well supported and for a good cause, but the numbers were a bit sparse. During the course of my 3 mile jog, I shoe-horned in a mile effort round a couple of blocks of flats and clocked 5:55 for the mile, so the target for Saturday was a sub 6 which I thought should be easily deliverable. A quick scan of the power of ten rankings suggested that for my age group, this would put me into the top 50 in the UK. I would add that there was probably on 50 or so running the distance so its not a 'big ask' as they say. 

I packed my spikes and a towel, in case I worked up a lather. I donned my new club top. The Committee have acquiesced to the club name and town coat of arms being put on the top which has really freshened up the look. Having not run in my spikes for years, I’m not sure why I packed them. Wearing spikes for a race without first training in them is a recipe for rapid achilles destruction. The sun was up and a gentle breeze blowing down the home-straight welcomed me and my coffee as I arrived at the stadium. I caught up with Mr G and Mr B and Pam. After getting my number and paying my £3, I sat down to change my shoes only to discover my trusty lunar-glides were still sitting on a chair at home. It was either the spikes or the Salomon trail shoes.  Step forward Pam offering her pink lunar-glides. Being a metrosexual sort, I nodded and eagerly took my inserts out of the Salomons and tried them on – a perfect fit. I was cutting a fine figure in my new shoes….Woke up cold one Tuesday I'm looking tired and feeling quite sick, I felt like there was something missing in my day to day life...
I asked Mr B for advice on running a 4 lapper. He thought for a moment then said that I should concentrate on lap 3. Lap 4 would take care of itself. I warmed up in my usual animated fashion on the back-straight before taking my place on the line with 10 others. There were a handful of girls from Jesmond Joggers. The bloke from Blaydon asked me what time I was going for and I replied ‘somewhere under 6 minutes’. He seemed disappointed and replied that he wouldn’t be able to use me as a pacer. The cheek of it!

At the start I tucked in behind a Gateshead vet for a lap. One of the Jesmond girls was out in front but I thought she'd started too quickly. I was chomping at the bit though and burst out of Gateshead's shadow after the first lap when the timekeeper said ‘87’ (seconds). I overhauled the slowing Jesmond runner soon afterwards. The second lap was about 70 seconds and the third maybe a bit more. I was out on my own but keeping pace broadly with the Blaydon bloke who was 100m ahead. I think the timekeeper said 4:07 after the third lap. The last lap required a bit of wellie but instead I ran like I was wearing a pair and had to dig deep to cross the line in 5m:30secs.  I caught my breath, cooled down and returned the shoes to Pam. A very reasonable first attempt at this distance, but well off my best 1500m time of 4:32 – mind that was about 12 years ago. A bit of track work and even more lettuce should see me creeping into the low 20’s. A bit of application is required. I’ve got the Bridges of Tyne 5m and the Sunderland 5k.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Righteous Dude at the Black Rock 5 (2018)

It’s difficult to come up with an original report for the Black Rock 5. As I trawled through the results from previous years, it shows I’ve run this 5 mile beach race on-and-off since 2006. That’s a whopping 12 years with probably around 7 or 8 appearances. My times have all been (un)comfortably below the 30 minute mark with the fastest a slow 26 minuter. I must have been keen then. This year, as I lined up a little way behind the Stuweb chip timing pads, I eyed the tarmac rising up steadily ahead. For some it would be their first hill: For me, it was my runway to Nirvana. ‘Was 28 minutes possible?’ I mused. Maybe 29 would do. I was in ‘the zone’. Staring fixedly at the long stretch of road to the top where the crowd was gathering I jabbed a finger imperiously at my quarry; Was I going to give it 'one hundred and ten percent?' Hell Yeah.....Bueller.....Bueller......Bueller ? 
With 5 minutes to go I glimpsed the young Donald boys from the Hawks stretching their legs at the front. ‘Not much spare on them lads’ I thought. Was that the Perth runner Fotheringham next to me? The guy who made the pace with Aitken and left me behind at the 2016 Tay Ten? 'Is he running well? Maybe, Maybe not.'. Two minutes to go and as the crowd condensed, people pushed in. The viscosity of this mass of athletic humanity (1000 of them), were busting a gut for release, like a bottle of coke that’s been violently shaken, then dropped on its cap. One minute to go and there was a lot of bouncing around and pogo-ing on the spot;  Thirty seconds and I was checking my garmin for the tenth time, another visual scan on the double tied laces and …lift off….Houston, we are good to go and off we went. The cork was out and bouncing off the ceiling.

Finding my pace early, it was warm with a gentle easterly breeze. The throng began to thin and sort itself out. I had entered last year but been injured and, as I careered down the high street toward the beach, the crowd shouting and joking with the spectacle presented in front of their eyes, I thought ‘take it easy big boy, at least you’re not injured’.  Some way back, Missus Mac was fighting it out at somewhere at the back of the field.   

In no time at all we were hitting the beach. The long lensed cameras pointed from left and from right like mini-daleks and you couldn’t expectorate without the risk of hitting someone with a camera phone pointed at you. Do people not remember things anymore? Is memory going the same way as Woolworths and gobstoppers?  Do folk ever manage to look at all their captured images? So many questions..... anyone.....anyone.....anyone?
'Ahh, there they are…the 3 bridges and the rock of doom ahead'.

We were suddenly into water and then onto flat sand, then more water. Wet shoes, then a mile of ‘Riddle of the Sands’, tramping over baby dunes, a filmscape for a Borrowers production of Lawrence of Arabia. The camels would have been tiny.

The sweat began to drip from my reversed cap. I wondered whether I could catch the little group ahead before the turn; I wondered whether the little group behind me was going to swallow me up. The rock and the piper came in good time. I grabbed the bum bag I had strapped to my waist with my phone and wallet in it and hoisted it up as the knee high water lapped at my gusset, the splashes swashing the bottom of my vest. 'Could have done without the baggage'! Out of the water, I worked hard to catch and then tuck in behind a tall runner from some leisure club, all black and red decals. However, as we made our way back unconvincingly toward Kinghorn, I imagine that he decided I was drafting and began to weave. Maybe he was tired.  ‘What’s he on?’ I thought, indignant that someone had the audacity to try and force me to the front like some cheap velodrome rider. As I reluctantly came to the front, I initially feigned exhaustion, blowing hard out of all orifices in an exaggerated fashion and pulling a twisted deviant gurn. However, my theatricals were only a cue for a girl from Central to cruise past and I attempted to latch onto her, my would-be exhaustion suddenly forgotten. She pulled out ahead of me in confident fashion and by the time I came off the beach, she was off and away. 

We were in slow motion as we pitter-pattered up the penultimate climb. What on another day was a slack wee drag up from the seafront, today was K2’s big brother, and all the Sherpas were laughing at me. Swearing quietly to myself for being so old and slow, I crested the top of the drag and, at last, began to pick up speed. With the last quarter of a mile ahead , I eased into second gear. I glanced at my garmin and it was turning 27 minutes. I needed to control my breathing and find 3rd gear. I managed this just in time as a couple of youths came past and the final turn under the railway viaduct came and I had to slam my legs back into first gear to get up the pyramidal grizzly peak that is the final hill and the finish line.  I was aware of my heart slipping out my arse as I tried to go more than 2 miles an hour to the finish line and there it was. Another sub 30 (28:48) and 5th V50.  Why do I do it? High on sandy endorphins, I collected my water, banana and bottle of beer.
Missus Mac appeared after a wee while and was well up the field and certainly not last. It was fish and chips and a couple of beers at the Auld House Pub before bedtime. Not so much craic with the locals this year, but there you go and it was back to the campsite for a night in the tent.  It was breakfast in Burntisland and a few pages of Tim Moores highly entertaining ’Gironimo’ before we commenced the trip south. All good stuff.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Helensburgh 10k

As I dragged my sorry torso, slapping spider arms and spindly legs around the final corner into Hermitage Academy, my eyes fell on the race clock in its understated grey box perched next to the finishing banners and blue and white blow up arch. The first two numbers were ‘38’. As my lungs continued to blow like an engine on empty, a pair of bellows with a hole in the middle,  my eyes continued to move right to see another two numbers. They said ‘38’ as well….but the second set of numbers kept moving….39….40…. I was nearly at the line but had to dig deep. Desperate measures. Run, Forest. Crossing in 38:41 I fell forward and gasped in lungful's of air. I wiped the sweat off my head and nose. That was tougher than it should have been.

On reflection, I was really pleased with my run, all things considered. My technique had crumpled somewhere around the 5k mark, as I peered at my garmin. Running along Argyle Street the roads were on ‘soft close’, the occasional car creeping along between runners. We were in the middle of the road. The cherry blossoms that lined the unlikely boulevard were, in any other circumstances, beautiful.  I had no time to appreciate their feminine beauty. I was on a mission.

I have family in Helensburgh and used an excuse of a visit to justify an entry and overnight stay for the first of the Babcocks Series's 10k’s.  The new school, with all its bells and whistles, was the race HQ and there was plenty of space to park and toilets for all. The youngster appeared from Raintown to offer support, but was miffed that the tea, coffee and cake stall wasn’t opening until after the race….think they missed a trick there.   

I had a thick throat, but otherwise was buoyed up by my new mantra of self-management in terms of my weekly training and racing.  You have to have the right mindset before races. I am mainly my own coach now, although I still like nipping down to the club when I can. I keep it varied. I have had a couple of good races in recent months, albeit that they are short and relays. A 10k is a step up in distance.

The first mile was a six minute affair with a drag up through a housing estate before a steady drop onto the mean streets of drizzle town. There was quite a bit of support out for the local Dumbarton and Helensburgh runners, and I fell in between 2 girls, one of which was running for the prison service, the other was wearing a yellow top.  They both looked strong. Both had good technique and every time someone else passed me, I latched onto their stride, their heels, anything. I tried to copy them to get me through another kilometre.  The periodic barks from the marshalls was like something from Poltergiest….’keep to the left….don’t look at the light, child….’.

A wee dog on a lead had a go at me as I mounted the pavement at 7k and the shock gave me a little adrenaline jolt but it wasn’t enough and I eventually lost touch of the two girls in the last 2 km; However I clocked in 67th and 4th vet (O50) and delivered a ‘well below my target sub40’. I also won a spot prize - I found a great tome of ‘100 years of Shettleston Harriers’ along with my Tunnocks log (not a metaphor) in my medal bag. Not sure if I also got a pair of socks or not.  The youngster flicked through it, raised her eyebrows and said ‘its all men and there aren’t even any colour photos in it; typical.'

This serious racing stuff is punishing and if undertaken, has to be approached with both caution, respect and commitment.  Either way, it’s the best 10k result for me since Dumbarton in 2016 when I was a lot lighter. Next up, the Black Rock 5. All aboard.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Elswick and NEMAA Relays

The need to blog has been bouncing around the bottom in recent weeks, but I've been tipped over the edge by a mixed metaphor and last nights late spring performance.
It was the North East Masters Relays. Lots of old folk trying to relive past glories. Evocative of a wrinkled Chariots of Fire where we're all white vests, awkward baggy flapping shorts and the Greek keyboard king giving it large in the wings on his stylophone (I imagine).
I had no intention of running this. It wasn't on my radar. I was busy doing other things in my mission impossible control centre. God, its dark in there.  All buzzing, clicks and L.E.D screens. Dangling from that rope all day really takes it out of you.

A weekend in London at the marathon watching the daughters gently frying to a brown crisp over 26 miles was enough for me to mooch backwards discreetly from competition. I had just got rid of my 3rd cold of the year, which is just ridiculous. I wonder if I am someone's experiment and they just haven't got round to telling me.

I was contacted last week and asked to run in the crack over 45's 'B' team. Considering I am a month off a decade older, I was both sanguine and flattered by the request (obviously of a desperate man). Being the reliable Johnny that I am, I confirmed my availability in the soon to be forgotten 3 man team.   By the end of the week, however, I had received an upgrade to the 'A' team after the withdrawal of Rob H pulling up at training with a recurrence of the hamstring thing. Not everyone had been taking it easy, it seems.

Happy with my sub 13 minute relay stint at the Easter Elswick Relays and a nearly sub-19 minute Parkrun in Southwick, I am in good shape. Don't count your chicklets, however. Work is doing its best to thwart my sterling efforts (thwart...there's a word you don't hear ever...what you call a person who tries to thwart you?... a thwart hog).  But I've now reached capacity and not taking any more work, I can find time to breath and blog and other things beginning with the letter B.

The NEMAA relays comprises three legs each 3k long (about 1.9mile) and twice round the Campbell Park in Monkton, south of the Tyne.  I arrived in the sun in good time and secured pole position starting first. Around 30 or 40 set off and I cracked around the first lap. I settled down toward the end of the lap and took shelter where I could where the park road was exposed. I even recall telling myself I was feeling pretty good, but that errant thought was parked soon after when I began to tire. The 5:55 first mile was not reproduced in the second lap and it was down to around 6:11 at the end.  I jogged around for a couple of laps afterwards and took some snaps. Not sure where we finished, but I thought I made some sort of contribution. In self-recognition it was chips at Wallsend afterwards, much more digestible than a medal. On the way back my thoughts turned to maybe re-joining the masters association so that I can run some track events in June and later summer. Before then there's the Black Rock and I am toying with the Helensburgh 10k next week. mmmm...maybe!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Aberfoyle Spring Week

After making light work of the Loch Katrine Marathon (see previous blog; wink, wink, say no more), we had a wind-down week in a wee cottage in Aberfoyle. It was 2012 since I previously put my feet up thereabouts, although I did ride the Tour De Trossachs there last October. The weather had, thankfully, improved and we didn't see a repeat of the bitter conditions witnessed on the previous Sunday.

Every day, I ran up through the gravel tree lined trails around the David Marshall Lodge, halfway up the Dukes Pass. Some days I went off-piste and got lost in the wooded kingdom. The runs were usually followed by a eggy based brunch. Not a big mileage week, but I was clocking around 1000ft of quality ascent every day and gulping in the stunning scenery together with bucket loads of fresh air.  Mrs Mac spent her time recovering from her 6 hour Katrine shuffle and read for much of the Week.

Spring, mild and wet weather arrived by the end of the week when the frogs were everywhere doing what they do at this time of  the year in the woodland ponds. Have they got no shame? On the bird front, they were pretty shy, but we caught sight of a Goldeneye in Loch Achray and a Goosander at the Lake of Menteith hotel where the venison burger proved too strong for me. Earlier, late on the Friday afternoon after the rain stopped, I came down like a sack of tatties on a slippy bend, but got up quickly in case someone was watching and having a wee laugh at my expense, a wee bitty schadenfreude up the Dukes Pass. Anybody had a wee bitty schadenfreude up the Dukes Pass...anyone...anyone...Bueller?

Saturday saw us pack up and clear off home via Glasgow. The sun was splitting the pavements (really), so we felt compelled to visit Victoria Park in Whiteinch where my granny used to live (not in the park) for the Park Run. Around 270 converged on the crocus laden grounds. The pond was busy with various swans and ducks.

I soon fell into step behind a high stepping female, an unattached Louise Dytch, after the first lap when the field began to thin out. We threaded our way around another 2 laps and I lagged a couple of seconds to her with 100 to go, but crossing the line in 18:48, I was pretty pleased to go sub 19 for ages. Checking the results, it looked like a big PB for her also. It was, I suppose, a perfect day for a Park run and the course is pretty flat.

We warmed down afterwards, meeting up with Speedy Joe for a salad and chips at the Hyndland Fox, a little bit of bohemia among the red brown sandstone tenements. Very nice. Very civilsed.

This week I'll be back in the gym, the first time for ages. I am enjoying the running and trying to ensure I manage myself to stay injury free. This, seemingly, involves trying no to over-do the interval stuff, being sensible with the long runs and rationing the races. That said, its the Elswick Relays in Newburn this Friday, so better not take my foot off the gas yet. I'll be in a new age category in June and was reminded by a running buddy that I should be aiming to make an impact.  Always happy to oblige! 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Loch Katrine Running Festival

I entered the Loch Katrine marathon in January after finding out there were no more places for the half marathon. Mrs Mac also put her name down. Aunt Aggie would have, but there were no crayons to hand.
I have trained very reasonably for the event over the last 2 months, managing myself and trying to ensure there were no heroics that led to injury, with a capital R.

Having heard this weekend’s forecast, however, I was resigned to the event being cancelled.  We travelled up regardless, on Saturday morning after Mrs Mac’s nightshift. The dark destroyer was in tow after her storming 3:04 and first British woman at Barcelona. We then collected Speedy Joe in Glasgow. She’s claiming injury and has been taking it easy after a full-on XC season. Although neither were racing, I was in good company.  They are both doing London.
After setting up camp in Aberfoyle, we ate big on the Saturday night. We woke this morning to snow. Around an inch all told. Strangely, the Facebook page for the event still appeared to be showing no change; The Alloa half was cancelled together with a handful of other races. ‘Surely it couldn’t be still on’, we asked ourselves.  

We piled our gear into the car and set off avoiding the Dukes Pass and drove via Callender. The event HQ was up and running at 8:30am when we arrived having picked our way through the snowy lanes of Kilmahog. Everything was green for go, even though everything was actually white with snow. There was a good inch of fresh powdery snow on the road along the loch.
With a wind chill of around minus 8, there was, not for the first time, much discussion about the choice of footwear and how many layers to wear.  About 60 runners set off for the marathon including me and Missus mac. I had checked with the organisers beforehand that, in the event of me getting too cold and copping out, I could cut the event short and do the half, 13 miles, rather than the 26.  Fine, they said. No problem.
I had opted for the Salomons on snowy tarmac, but was fairly sure I definitely didn’t want to run 26 miles on tarmac in them. The soles of my Nike Lunars, however, were as flat as the UK economy and useless for snow running. 
Running for the first few miles with a huge tailwind blowing me west, I overheated badly. I was sitting around 5th or 6th just after mile 6, when I spied the turnaround marker for the half marathon and as soon as you could say ‘that’ll do nicely’ I had implemented a swift no-nonsense volte-face and was soon heading back into the wind and snow flurries. As I ran on my own along the single track that wound its way through the woods all I could think of was '....good weather for the judderman'. Long slender icicles on the rocks. snow flurries. Occasional ravens, cawing. desolate. Beware the judderman, my dear, when the moon is fat. ......I was woken out of my hypothermic stupor by the half marathon and 10k runners who had set off half an hour later than the marathon runners. A small stampede of folk coming at me from all angles. I got plenty of ‘well dones’. ‘What on earth do people think I’ve achieved’ I wondered; the only runner from the marathon group to bail out and retreat like Napoleon being chased by the Cossacks.
I arrived back at HQ in 1:34 which was perfectly fine and explained myself to the perplexed marshalls. They recorded the time and I got a hat, medal and tea-cake. The 2 young athletes had a good jog around the place and we enjoyed a lunch of hot soup at the pier café. Mrs Mac returned some good while later and we had a good chat about this low key but very popular event in the Forth Inn after a wash and warm up.